The Belgian part of the North Sea (BNS) and the coastal zone are the scene of numerous human activities, each with a specific impact on this environment. The thematic chapters of the Compendium for Coast and Sea cover the main human activities on the BNS (e.g. fishing, energy extraction, sand extraction and shipping) and their possible direct or indirect impact on the environment. The potential pressures caused by an activity at sea include: pollution by chemicals (such as PCBs, PAHs and heavy metals); oil or litter; eutrophication; introduction of invasive species; disturbance of biodiversity; underwater noise and seabed integrity (OSPAR IA 2017). The environmental themes addressed in the CoastaINsight 2019 (Dauwe et al. 2019) (water demand, salinisation, air quality, CO2-emission and household waste) focus primarily on the coastal zone (12 nm-zone, ten coastal municipalities and nine hinterland municipalities). All the intense activities at sea and in the coastal zone have resulted in a comprehensive package of legislation and regulations to mitigate, reduce or avoid the impact of certain user functions on the environment (see Verleye et al. 2018).

The OSPAR Convention provides an overarching legal framework for the protection of the marine environment in the North-East Atlantic Ocean. The mid-term review (OSPAR IA 2017) of OSPAR can be integrated into national obligations for the initial assessment of marine waters in the context of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive. An overview of relevant legislation, guidelines, technical and scientific reports is available on the website of the Directorate-General Environment.

Belgium has different statutes for the protection of nature areas in the coastal and marine region: Wetlands of Ramsar areas, Natura 2000 areas, Flemish and recognised nature reserves, forest reserves, areas of the Dune Decree, protected landscapes and the Flemish Ecological Network (VEN). Often there is an overlap between two or more protection statutes. The BNS comprises more than 1,200 km² or approximately 36% marine protected area. Natura 2000 comprises a European network of sites designated by the member states of the European Union as Special Protection Areas for the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The target date for achieving all nature objectives is 2050 and six-yearly cycles are used. The management plans describe the actions within one cycle (Pecceu et al. 2016, Belgian State 2018).

More info see theme chapter ‘Nature and environment’ of the Compendium for Coast and Sea and the publication CoastalINsight 2019 (Dauwe et al. 2019) (Dutch).

Nature protection
Environmental impact